Racism row hijacks massive support campaign for bullied schoolboy
This is Keaton Jones, he lives in Knoxville and he has a little something to say about bullying.pic.twitter.com/coyQxFp33V— Everything TN (@Everything_TN) December 9, 2017
Jones’ video, in which the tearful sixth-grader from Horace Maynard Middle School in Knoxville, Tennessee sits in a car lamenting about being bullied, was uploaded to Facebook this past weekend by his mother. The post attracted 22 millions views. Basketball star LeBron James, rapper Snoop Dogg and actor Mark Ruffalo were among the celebrities who offered support for the boy and invited him to their events.
Damn right! Bullies are straight up wack, corny, cowards, chumps, etc, etc! Keaton keep your head up buddy and push forward! You're the best https://t.co/pqDgay77l9— LeBron James (@KingJames) December 11, 2017
“Just out of curiosity, why do they bully? What's the point of it?” Keaton had asked. “Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to 'em? It's not okay.”
Support for his words soon turned to dismay, however. On Monday, images purportedly from the boy’s mother’s social media account were revealed, showing her holding a Confederate flag and also expressing negative views on black protesters. The profile in question has since been closed to the public, making the images impossible to verify.
The backlash on Twitter included accusations of racism against the mother. It included depicting her as a KKK member and Keaton’s face crudely photoshopped over a comic book image of Hitler being punched by Captain America.
How Keaton boutta be pulling up to the next kkk meeting pic.twitter.com/8Uhgv2nErm— * (@kv81r) December 11, 2017
Some comments suggested Keaton deserved the bullying because he insulted his black schoolmates, without specifying a source for that claim.
CORRECTION: keaton was bullied by his classmates because he called them N word pic.twitter.com/1L6QSegNYc— BARBIE® (@timmythick) December 11, 2017
Other accounts accused Kimberly Jones of using her son’s video to make money.
Dang so Keaton jones mom is trying to make money off everyone. Just used her son for some extra bread smh. Then she said “us white people have to stick together” crazy world— Kenny Dwayne Vaccaro (@KennyVaccaro4) December 11, 2017
I'd contribute to a GoFundMe to find Keaton a better mom.— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) December 11, 2017
A GoFundMe account had indeed been set up for Keaton after his video went viral, but its creator, a man named Joseph Lam, has admitted he does not know the Jones family personally. The account had raised nearly $58,000 before Lam paused the donations.
Meanwhile, real social media accounts of anybody in Keaton’s family have been hard to come by. A few accounts with their names on them have emerged, but most have either been recently created or have only started posting after the video went viral.
One such account, used extensively in the initial reporting on Keaton’s mother’s alleged racist views, was accessed by MMA fighter Joe Schilling, who then posted screenshots of himself ‘debunking’ Kimberly’s purported scam before shooting off a barrage of insults. Schilling admits, however, that it “might be a fake account pretending to be his mom.”
One of the unverifiable accounts, claiming to be Keaton himself, posted an apology for her alleged racism.
“I love my mother but I also realize wrong is wrong,” the post on the now-deleted Instagram account went. “I hope we can all put her mistakes in the past and focus on bettering the world.”
However, Keaton's sister, Lakyn Jones, took to Twitter to beat back the accusations of racism. She wrote: “Those who know me and my family know we aren’t racist. My brother doesn’t say the ‘N’ word. Please leave it alone.”
Those who know me and my family know we aren’t racist. My brother doesn’t say the “N” word. Please leave it alone— Lakyn 🎄 (@Lakyn_Jones) December 11, 2017
In spite of the controversy, many people keep urging sympathy for Keaton, whatever his mother’s views may be.
Let me get this straight. Keaton was bullied. And now people have discovered that his mom is racist. And the result: Twitter is bullying not just the mother, but Keaton himself for his mother's sins.Looks like we still have a lot to learn about bullying.— Elad Nehorai (@PopChassid) December 11, 2017